Colossians 1: 3 – 20.
The Letter to the Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul during his imprisonment in Rome around 60 AD. His Epistle was in response to news that he had received on the spiritual relativism that had crept into the church. In summary, the Letter redirected the believers’ attention to the supremacy of Christ: since in Christ lives all the fullness of God, the way we live ought to be Christ-centred. Furthermore, He had paid with His life for sin, and reconciled us to God, thereby giving us the pattern and the power to grow spiritually. Our focus is on Paul’s prayer for the church in his introductory segment.
The Apostle did not plant the church at Colossae and had never visited it, and this explained his initial comment – we have been “praying always for you since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:3-4). The objective for Paul’s regular supplications and thanksgiving to God for the Colossian believers was indicative of his ongoing monitoring of their progress in their spiritual growth: their faith in Christ and their love for all the saints, their faithfulness to the gospel and their fruitfulness in Christ (Col 1:4-8). If there were a pattern to Paul’s intercessions, it would be his faithful regular and Spirit-motivated prayers from the inception of each church, not necessarily prognosticating its testimonial outcome but always in anticipation of issues that may divert them from their community and public witness. Paul’s prayerful attitude towards the churches, including specific individuals whom he would often name in his Epistles, modelled the heart of God’s love and compassion for His Church. People were important to him. God’s testimony in His people mattered. What was the content of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians?
Firstly, he asked God to fill the Colossian believers with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col 1:9). Often, our constrained worldview limits seeking God’s will to our predilections, but to know His will entails far more than the satisfaction of our personal life goals and apparent needs. To do His will is a choice that resonates our Master’s submission of His will to His Father; ‘not my will but Yours be done’ (c.f., Eph 5:17). It involves the daily offering of ourselves as living and holy sacrifices to God in the transformation of our minds through the Word of God that we may prove what is His will (Rom 12:1-2). Simply put, we test what is God’s will for us by our obedience to His Word within the ambit of His wisdom and understanding. Secondly, the rationale behind knowing God’s will is the believers walk in a manner worthy of their Lord, and to please Him in all respects (Col 1:10). Paul petitioned that the Colossians’ consuming passion was to not let their Lord Jesus down. The eternal model as postulated by the Apostle is for us to emulate Christ Himself, certainly not in our capability, but through the Holy Spirit’s empowering as He transforms our heart and mind to utterly please Him in all that we are and do. What then are the evidence from such a life that is devoted to God?
Believers justified by faith in Christ are always characterised by their good works (Col 1:10a; c.f., James 2:14-26). Living a life worthy of the Lord invariably contributes towards an increasing relationship with the Almighty, by a deepened knowledge of Him through obedience to His Word. This implies living a Godly life in conformity to the tenets of Biblical faith (Col 1:10b; c.f., John 14:15), where this life in Christ is imbued with the same strength of power that raised Jesus from the dead – a power to persevere against difficulties in this world with Godly patience, faith and wisdom (Col 1:11; c.f., Rom 8:10-11; Eph 1:19-20). And finally, we genuinely and joyfully appreciate the privilege of being rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His Light, catching the heavenly perspective of the blessings of His inheritance in the believers in Christ (Col 1:12-14; Col 1:21-23; c.f., Eph 2:2). Paul was exuberant as he prayed for the Colossian believers, and he concluded by breaking forth into praise in a Hymn on the Incomparable Christ (Col 1:15-20). The divine purpose that Paul was driving at, for any believer, is that God has determined a process for us to grasp His will, to practically facilitate His lordship over our lives, in acknowledgement that He is the One who holds the created order together. Either Jesus is the Lord of all or none at all! That ought to be our goal in life.